The Eric Trap…A Leadership Fable. Authored by Jim Wideman, Sam Luce and Kenny Conley with Kristen Englund, Sherri Epperson, Craig Gyergyo, Deana Hayes and Matt McDaniel. Available through Amazon.com.
I’m honored to have been invited to review “The Eric Trap”…A Leadership Fable… written by three of the heaviest hitters in the world of Children’s Ministry…Jim Wideman, Sam Luce and Kenny Conley. All three are well-known bloggers and conference speakers.
While the book was written by children’s pastors about a children’s pastor for children’s pastor, I found the principles and ideas shared in the book to be highly applicable in my own work life and family life. If Jim, Sam and Kenny were to ask my opinion, I’d encourage them to consider making some minor revisions and repackaging the book for a much broader audience in such a way that individuals looking for advice on working more effectively within their organization or maintaining a more effective balance between work and family would benefit from the content.
The premise of the book involves “Eric,” a children’s pastor in his mid 30’s who experiences a week in which his work and family life spiral out of control because of his inability to consistently apply five key leadership principles relevant to his job situation… the need to delegate responsibility, the need to respect and support the leader of his church, the need to partner with the parents of the kids he’s charged to serve, the importance of using the right measures in measuring success, and the need to maintain his personal priorities.
The book was a quick and easy read…I finished it cover to cover in two sittings over about three hours in one day. A leader in ministry could also find the book useful for a self-directed retreat. The authors included succinct but probing discussion questions at the end of each chapter. A children’s pastor without a budget to hire a coach or ministry consultant could use questions from the book as a guide for working through vocational challenges common to children’s ministry.
I thought it might be helpful to look at the book through a different set of eyes…I may be the only person outside of paid ministry invited to do a review. However…our ministry team interfaces with staff from hundreds of churches around the country on a regular basis and I’ve seen the situation described in the book in many “ministry families” served by my practice. I’d consider myself to be a “knowledgable outsider” in the relational and organizational dynamics Eric struggles with in the book.
As a physician specializing in child and adolescent psychiatry, I’d try to look at Eric’s situation very systematically…The types of questions I’d ask are as follows:
What predisposed Eric (the prototypical pastor) to fall into the trap?
What precipitated Eric’s fall into the trap?
What might perpetuate Eric’s time in the trap, and what will the impediments be to using the sage advice offered and get out of the trap?
The book does a great job identifying the precipitants…Jim Wideman alluded to a key predisposing and perpetuating factor in his final chapter…fear.
From where I sit, fear is the “elephant in the living room” for too many people in ministry. I’ve encountered way too many church staff who eschew involvement of high-capacity volunteers into their ministry because of fear their weaknesses could be exposed, hesitate to delegate ministry responsibilities because they fear becoming dispensable to cash-strapped churches, and avoid seeking help from church leaders when they’re struggling because of the fear of being perceived as less than competent.
The fear is qualitatively different than that encountered in the secular work world. Ministry is truly calling, and for most folks I’ve encountered in ministry world, work is worship. The fear of losing the opportunity to pursue a calling in ministry is worse than the fear of losing a job, and most children’s pastors have far less financial margin to fall back upon compared to other workers if they need to leave a ministry position. I’d like to hear more from Jim, Sam and Kenny about the fears they see in their training and consultation that lead the Erics of the world into traps and prevent them from escaping traps.
Bottom line: The Eric Trap contains lots of sound advice from three highly qualified leaders in the field of children’s ministry. This is a great synopsis of the type of wisdom one would get from listening to several days of main stage speakers at a major ministry conference. I’d strongly recommend the book to my friends in “kidmin” world, as well as other areas of ministry, especially those who are feeling “stuck.”
Disclosure…I received a free preview copy of the book.
Our Key Ministry team has two exciting training opportunities in April for our friends from around the U.S. Harmony Hensley will be presenting on the topic: Under Construction: Building an Inclusion Ministry at the McLean Bible Church Accessibility Summit in McLean, VA on April 21-22. She’ll be joined there by guest bloggers Aaron Scheffler of Mark 2 Ministries, Jolene Philo of Different Dream Parenting and Shannon Dingle of Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC. Registration info is available here. Katie, Rebecca and Harmony will be offering a free, day-long JAM (Jumpstart All-Inclusive Ministry) Session at Two Rivers Church in Knoxville, TN on Saturday, April 28th. Click here for registration info.